Highway Hypnosis: Why it is Dangerous and Increases the Risk of a Crash

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on September 16, 2022 in Car Accidents
Updated on April 24, 2024

highway hypnosis collisionsHave you ever driven a long distance and suddenly realized you cannot recall your surroundings or what has happened on the road for the last few minutes? If so, you may have experienced something called highway hypnosis.

Even when not driving drowsy a person could zone out behind the wheel and become less focused and attentive to the road. This state of mind can be dangerous and even lead to a serious collision.

Can drivers prevent highway hypnosis from happening to them? Are all drivers susceptible to this risk?

PKSD has vast experience advocating for injured victims, including those involved in all types of motor vehicle crashes. Not sure if you have a valid case? We offer a free case review to discuss your traffic accident and potential legal options. Find out more when you call our firm, including how we can take your case with no upfront costs or fees to you. We are available to take your call 24/7.

Ask for your FREE case review today. 414-333-3333

What is Highway Hypnosis?

Highway hypnosis and white-line fever are terms used to describe drivers when they zone out or enter a trance-like state while behind the wheel. It is not the same condition as driving while fatigued or drowsy, although someone could experience both situations at the same time.

When drivers experience highway hypnosis, they are in an altered state of mind. Although their eyes are not closed and they are not nodding off, they are merely operating on auto pilot. Unfortunately, this state of mind is more dangerous than you may think. Drivers experiencing highway hypnosis may be completely unaware of a road hazard until it is too late.

What Causes Drivers to Experience Highway Hypnosis?

Drivers may become hypnotized by the monotony of the road, such as an empty highway with an endless white line. This phenomenon is especially common when drivers travel for long distances on open highways with little traffic.

Why is Highway Hypnosis Dangerous and How Could it Lead to a Collision?

When people zone out behind the wheel, their brain and mental awareness are not at full capacity. This relaxed state of mind can make it difficult for drivers to react quickly enough to an unexpected a road hazard. Sometimes drivers affected by highway hypnosis may:

  • Run through a red light they did not “see”
  • Fail to signal before entering another lane
  • Not stop soon enough to avoid hitting another vehicle or person
  • Miss an exit or enter a wrong-way ramp
  • Drift into oncoming traffic without realizing it
  • And more

If a driver “snaps to” and realizes they are in a dangerous situation, it may cause him or her to lose control of the vehicle.

What Are the Warning Signs of Highway Hypnosis?

Some people, especially those who frequently drive long distances, may be more susceptible to experiencing highway hypnosis. Truck drivers, shift workers and others who work late at night are also at risk.

Some of the warning signs to look for include:

  • Wandering thoughts
  • Loss of focus or concentration
  • Feeling foggy, dull or dazed
  • Reacting slower
  • Blinking frequently
  • Eyelids that feel heavy

Can Drivers Prevent Highway Hypnosis From Happening?

Highway hypnosis can catch people by surprise. However, if drivers are aware it can happen, there are things they can do to deal with it or even help prevent it.

For instance:

Avoid Driving Long Distance at Night

If you are a driver who has frequently experienced highway hypnosis, it may be a good idea to avoid driving long distances at night. When you drive during the daytime, falling into a trance or zoning out is less likely. This is because people, in general, are used to remaining alert during daylight hours.

Maintain Good Posture Behind the Wheel

As odd as it may sound, driving with good posture helps to keep blood flowing throughout your body. Maximizing your blood flow in this way may help you to stay more alert behind the wheel.

Take Frequent Breaks

Stopping at rest areas and getting out of your vehicle to stretch your legs can also help avoid highway hypnosis. Take a short walk to get the blood flowing or take a nap if you a feel a little tired. Taking these steps can help to recharge you and make you feel more alert. If you often struggle with highway hypnosis, planning out safe rest stops ahead of time is a good idea.

Drive an Alternative Route

Rather than drive on a dark road with a long length of highway, you may want to try another route. Perhaps going a different way has more scenery that can hold your interest. Highway hypnosis is very common when driving on routes that are too familiar.

Take Turns Driving

Having another person travel with you to share driving duties is another good way to help prevent highway hypnosis.

In addition to these tips, some people recommend playing loud music, rolling down the windows or eating food to break the trance of highway hypnosis. However, just as with drowsy driving, there are various views on whether these actions are myths or if they may be helpful. In reality, if you are at the point where you need to do something so extreme to drive safely, it may be better to get off the road and rest.

Injured in a Highway Hypnosis Collision? Call Our Trusted Firm for Legal Help

Our Milwaukee-area car accident lawyers are deeply committed to helping the injured. If you are not sure about your options for recovering compensation, you can find out at no cost to you.

Take advantage of our free, no-risk case review to discuss your situation. Our staff are available anytime, night or day, to take your call.

PKSD. Experienced Lawyers Who Get Results. 414-333-3333

Back to top